Alternate title: Instinct
Long ago the Thunderbird brought rain to Vancouver island, the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe remembers. But if you ask Marlon Lowe, age thirty-two, he’ll tell you that Thunderbird’s no god. He still remembers that summer evening in 1977 when those two black thunderbirds swooped into his backyard and tried to carry him away.
Can there be any truth to this tale? On the other side of the Atlantic, Zimbabwe fishermen tell tales of the attacking kongamato, a giant, bat-like devil bird which lives up to its name, meaning boat-breaker. During a wildlife expedition in 1932, while crossing a river in the Assumbo Mountains, seeking the docile Hammer-headed fruit bat, naturalist Ivan Sanderson and his college hurled themselves into the river in fear when a flying monstrosity dove at their boat, toothy jaws clattering. The locals called it olitiau.
In 1887, somewhere in Patagonia, Florentino Ameghino dutifully brushed away caked in sediment from the skull of a fifteen million year old terror bird. Over four-hundred pounds of pure death including a massive beak just as good for ripping flesh as it was at breaking skulls like crackers, and the thing stood three feet eleven inches taller than a Shaq Attack. He called it Phorusrhacid; its name means rag barer.
There is an eagle alive in Africa today with a wing span of up to eight feet. The martial eagle is sometimes spotted flying with the limp body of a baboon child dangling from its curved talons. Some stories claim they eat human infants, too.
About 70,000 years ago, modern humans migrated out of Africa hoping to become Europeans. Maybe something in our genes still remembers those curved talons, black wings beating like a nightmare that never ends.
Author's note: I searched and searched but couldn't figure out why Ameghino dubbed this species "rag barer." All I know is that he originally thought it was a herbivore and it once had a different name because of that. My intuition is that he called it rag barer as opposed to the original name, which meant stick or twig barer (I can't remember which), because of the bloody rags of flesh that dangled from it's killer beak after a meal... too grusome?